Easter this year is April 21, but our celebration of what has been called the greatest event in the history of the world does not begin on Easter Sunday. We do not begin our honoring the death and resurrection of Jesus on that day and we do not stop celebrating on that day.
The events of Easter really begin on Holy Thursday (April 18, this year). The celebration of Holy Thursday through Easter Sunday is called the Triduum, which translates into “three days.” Since the days are counted as the Jews count their days – from sundown to sundown – the Triduum begins at dusk on Holy Thursday, includes Good Friday (April 19) and concludes at dusk on Easter Sunday.
Even though it is three days long, the Catholic Church looks at the Triduum as one event. That is because it is both His death and resurrection together – called the Paschal Mystery – that makes up Jesus’s victory over sin for us.
The events we recall leading up to
Easter include the Last Supper, Jesus being crowned with thorns, being
beaten by the soldiers, being
imprisoned, carrying His cross, and
being crucified. All of those events are called “the Passion of Jesus.” Passion means “intense feelings,” and it was intense suffering that Jesus endured for us.
After all that suffering comes the happiest and holiest day of the year – Jesus’s resurrection from the dead.
This holy event is so joyful that we celebrate it for eight days. The eight days are called the Octave of Easter. On the eighth day of Easter, which this year is April 28, we celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy, a devotion made popular by St. Faustina Kowalska. On that day, we beg God to pour out His mercy on sinners. It was out of His great mercy and love for us that God allowed His son to suffer death on our behalf.
Even after eight days of celebrating Easter, the Church asks us to continue to consider in our hearts just what the resurrection of Jesus means. So, for 50 days, we are invited to reflect on, pray about and celebrate the truth that our Lord is risen from the dead and wants us to be with Him in Heaven.
The 50 days of celebrating ends on Pentecost (which will be celebrated on June 9 this year). This special time between Easter and Pentecost is called the Easter season and is when the Church focuses on the first Christians and how the faith was spread.
During this time, we also celebrate the Ascension of Our Lord (June 2 this year). We remember that Jesus ascended into Heaven to be with His Father, and He commissioned us to be His witnesses to the true faith.
The last day of the Easter Season is Pentecost, and recalls how the Holy Spirit descended upon the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Apostles. That enabled the disciples to preach in “foreign tongues” (Acts 2:4), urging those gathered in Jerusalem to repent and be baptized. About 3,000 people became followers of Christ that day (Acts 2:41).
Even though this remembrance of Jesus’s suffering, death and resurrection starts very sadly, it ends with great happiness and joy. All together – from Holy Thursday and the beginning of the Triduum until Pentecost and the end of the Easter season – the whole Church celebrates that we have been given a new life full of hope and joy because of what Jesus did for us.
It is during the holy Easter season that we see that we are truly part of a faith that asks us to make Christ known to the world and to let others see that salvation comes through following our risen Lord.
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